|MIAMI, FL. USA-(24-1-2006) Today's light air on Miami's Biscayne Bay was a telling test for the Neil Pryde RS:X, the new sailboard set to make its Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008. Both a women's and men's division for the RS:X class are included in US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR, where 610 sailors from 40 countries are competing in a total of nine Olympic classes and one Paralympic class. By the turnout--20 women and 39 men--the RS:X looks to be the success that its class architects had hoped it would be.
`This is only the first regatta in the U.S. for the RS:X since its announcement as the Olympic replacement for the Mistral back in November of 2004,` said Mike Gebhardt (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), an Olympic silver medalist who serves as US SAILING's RS:X class representative and takes part in international administration for the class. `The board is less weight sensitive than the Mistral when the wind is light, which is the great equalizer. It has attracted a much broader range of sailors; you can be heavier now to sail it.`
Gebhardt added that because of the RS:X's hybrid personality--somewhere between the long-board style of the Mistral and the high-performance design of a wider, shorter formula board--even World Cup pros are looking to do campaigns, giving Olympic boardsailing a global boost.
`It's noticeably slower than a long board in really light air, by about 20 percent,` said Gebhardt, `but when it's planing, it's 20 percent faster and it only takes about 10 knots to get it planing.`
For two races today, the wind hovered only around 5-6 knots--a downer as far as thrilling action goes but a fair comparison for what is projected for Beijing. Great Britain's Nick Dempsey (Weymouth), who won the Olympic bronze Mistral medal in the light breezes in Athens, seemed to relish the conditions, winning both of today's races.
`He led from start to finish in the first race but he had a bit more of a fight on his hands for the second,` said Stephen Park, the manager for Skandia Team GBR 2008, describing Dempsey's battle with France's Nicolas Huguet (Marseille) who remains in second. According to Mike Gebhardt, Huguet is a favored player here, having last year won the first-ever RS:X event in Cadiz, Spain, which hosted 120 boards.
`There are guys like Huguet here who are really good,` said Gebhardt, `but then there are a lot of recreational people here, too--new people getting into the game. With this new board, it's like someone who is used to running a marathon trying to do a triathlon. You're good but you just get punished because it's so different.`
In the women's division, another British sailor, Bryony Shaw (Weymouth), is also dominating. She turned in a 1-3 today. Moving into second was Greece's representative at the Athens Games, Antonia Frey (Athens), who trails Shaw by four points.
In other classes:
New Zealand's Dan Slater (Auckland) replaced yesterday's Finn class leader Rafael Trujillo (Santander, Spain). Trujillo toppled to third overall, while Canada's Christopher Cook (Toronto)--the defending champion--maintained second.
Defending champions John Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and Charlie Ogletree (Kemah, Texas) posted a 2-8 today to maintain their lead, but other teams are moving in. Another American team, Robbie Daniel (Clearwater, Fla.) and Enrique Rodriguez (Key Largo, Fla.), moved up a spot to second, while Spain's Fernando Echávarri and Antón Paz (both from Galicia) fell from second to fourth. In third is France's Olivier Backes (Marseille) and Paul-Ambroise Sevestre (Fontanes).
It was another smooth day for the USA's reigning world champions Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) and Deborah Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.). With a throwout third-place finish in the first of three races today, the team followed up with two bullets to maintain a perfect scoreline. Hannah Swett (New York, N.Y.), Melissa Purdy (Tiburon, Calif.) and Liz Filter (Stevensville, Md.) moved to second from fourth.
In two races today, yesterday's leader, USA's Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), posted a 1-10, keeping her lead, while Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.) climbed the ranks from fourth to second.
The top three leaders from yesterday appear to be racing a very consistent regatta, since there were no position changes from yesterday. Great Britain's Nic Asher (Lowestoft) and Elliot Willis (Sevenoaks) maintain their position at the top of the scoreboard.
The British team of Christina Bassadone (Southampton) and Saskia Clark (West Mersea) moved into the lead, knocking out France's Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux (both Marseille), who now hold second place.
Yesterday's leaders, the Australian team of Iain Murray (Clareville) and Andrew Palfrey (Avalon), fell to third place while George Szabo (San Diego, Calif.) and Eric Monroe (Coronado, Calif.) climbed from sixth to first, demonstrating that they are a force to be reckoned with throughout this highly competitive regatta. Current world champions from France, Xavier Rohart (Martigues) and Pascal Rambeau (La Rochelle) maintained their second place position overall.
The first- and second-place finishers from yesterday switched positions today, putting David Schroeder (Miami, Fla.), Keith Burhans (Rochester, N.Y.) and Bill Mauk (Miami, Fla.) at the top of the scoreboard, followed by Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Ezra Culver (Miami, Fla.) and Mike Ross (Encinitas, Calif.). Schroeder's team posted three victories in as many races today.
Chris Draper (Portland, UK) seems to have shaken off the pain of a twisted ankle he incurred earlier this week and remains at the top of the scoreboard with his crew Simon Hiscocks (also Portland). The bronze medalists from Athens ended the day with two victories after placing seventh in their first race. An interesting move was a second British team's rise from seventh yesterday to second today. John Pink and Alex Hopson, GBR turned in a 2-3-2, causing the toppling of USA's Morgan Larson (Capitola, Calif.) and Pete Spaulding (Lafayette, Ind.) to third place overall
After a two-day qualifying series, the 90-boat Laser fleet has been split into Gold and Silver fleets. Great Britain's Paul Goodison (Rotherham) maintains his lead, with Poland's Marciej Grabowski (Gdynia) keeping his second place from yesterday. In today's two races, Brad Funk (Plantation, Fla.) posted a 2-1, moving up the ranks to third place overall from sixth place yesterday.
US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR is an International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade 1 event, a designation that indicates its importance in world rankings. It also is a qualifying event for the members of the 2006 US Sailing Team and a country qualifier for the 2007 Pan Am Games. In addition to Rolex, sponsors for US SAILING's Rolex Miami OCR are Nautica, Extrasport, Gill, Harken, McLube, New England Ropes, Nikon, Sperry Top-Sider, Vanguard Sailboats, Vineyard Vines, and Zodiac. Rolex and Nautica are also sponsors of the US Sailing Teams.
Headquarters for US SAILING's 2006 Rolex Miami OCR are at the US Sailing Center, with classes hosted by the US Sailing Center; Coral Reef, Key Biscayne and Miami Yacht Clubs; the Coconut Grove Sailing Club; and Shake-A-Leg-Miami. The event is organized by US SAILING, the national governing body of the sport.